Holy Mackerel! The flood gates are flung wide open. The Pilgrims are out and marching at pace to Santiago, passing our gate from early morning through the afternoon. And Melide is filling up with them, too. The energy of the town has a bit of a spring in her step.
It’s Friday. There are not supposed to be many Peregrinos on Fridays. We had been told this by others. But our next door neighbor, Carmen, came by to deliver produce from her garden this afternoon. When I asked her about it she scoffed.
<translated from Spanish> ‘Those people don’t know anything. We live here. We can see them with our own eyes.’ As she gestured to a group of ten just passing right in front of us.
And Carmen is correct. Hundreds of walkers, hoards of fully loaded bicycles, and even multiple groups on horseback have gone past the house today. In three days time (the distance from here to Santiago de Compostela on foot) I would be interested to see the numbers from the Pilgrims office on Santiago. If this is what it’s like on Fridays now, the rest of the week will start to be wall to wall Pilgrims.
We drove through the village on our way back from town. Tour buses from Valencia were letting people off to sample the local wares and enjoy a coffee. We have seen these before in other years. The casual Pilgrim who booked a tour, where walking a stage or two supported by a motor coach gives the less adventurous a taste of the Camino experience. To each his own.
The local businesses who had yet to reopen have spent the last week with their windows flung wide to the fresh air, the brooms on over-drive, and the dust flying. Today those same establishments are all filled with Pilgrims, umbrellas open and tables packed. It’s wonderful to see.
Having a coffee up the road at our local cafe comes with a cacophony of languages now. All European. But its a start.
And more and more people stop and wave at the gate as I try to get my fill of Vitamin D in the morning. Jeff was weed-wacking around the grape vines and was being closely observed in his efforts. Today, I looked up and a group was watching me eat my lunch on the porch. Sometimes, I feel a bit like an animal in a zoo.
Who is this curious creature on the other side of the gate? And what is she eating? Will she share?
I will admit it’s exciting to have them back. I don’t really mind the interruption if it means life is returning to normal.
This year will be nothing like 2019, when >350,000 Pilgrims made their way to Santiago from 150 countries. But, as we contemplate our own business venture for next season for the double Xacabeo year, and watch the numbers begin to surge, it’s good to see that even in the pandemic the Camino endures. How the seeker will never allow obstacles deter them. Because, no matter what, the pull of the pilgrimage is just too strong. And the Peregrinos to Santiago will always return to the Way.